Sunday, 27 February 2011

Have you got 3 minutes to spare....

Well if ever there was a need for me to be mindful it's now!  I haven't got a clue what to write! 

I was going to devote a whole afternoon of thinking about, drafting and writing my blog which would of course be wonderfully interesting, thought provoking and seriously funny all at the same time but it just didn't happen!  (I'm seeing a pattern of behaviour here - high expectations....never gonna achieve don't bother!).  But here I am!  I have switched off the negative self talk and turned up anyway!  I think I've digressed...where was I?  Oh yes, I was going to devote hours to making this the best blog ever but I got waylaid.  Life's like that isn't it?  I started off well, I sat down, mindfulness books stacked majestically, lap top poised and ready to access the latest in cutting edge mindfulness research - ok ok, that's going a bit far but I was going to nosey round and see what was going down in the world of the here and now!!!!  And just as I was about to start, my lovely father in law called round.  We had a chat, both of us a little deaf (him because he is a little deaf and me from sinusitis), it was an interesting dialogue, lots of hmms, pardons and misunderstandings but we managed well.  Then I decided to try and download a 3 minute breathing space for one of my counselling clients who'd asked for a copy (I was delighted!!!).  I'd done a recording on my voice recorder and our lovely Mindfulness head guru had talked us through the basics of sound editing.  Unfortunately, this was over a year ago and I've had a sleep since then and now don't know my WAV's from my elbow!  After much googling and forum advice I realised that the (cheap) voice recorder I'd purchased only recorded in WMA and that didn't work with my sound editing software!  So that's 3 hours I'm never gonna get back!  I spent a further half hour wondering whether to record it again (aiming to get it word perfect without any hmms, coughing, paper shuffling or cats miaowing in the background - could be a bit off putting when you are meditating don't you think?) but in the end decided to leave it for the day and look at twitter instead!  Then I thought, oooh I'll do a 3 minute breathing space on Twitter (not easy in 140 characters I can tell you!)  Actually it turned out to be 420 characters over 3 tweets but I was impressed with my brevity!  So...whilst I was unable to record my work for one client on a CD, I was able to send it out into cyber space where 1 of my many!!! (17) followers may choose to just stop what they are doing and spend 3 minutes of their day just being mindful. 

So....have you got 3 minutes to spare?  If so read on.  Here's the 3 minute breathing space.  Great to do when you feel a bit stressed.   You can try it first thing in a morning as you start your day (even before you get out of bed).  Between tasks at work (you can do it just sat looking at your computer or out of the window) or on the bus going home.  It's just an opportunity to press the pause button.....and we all need to do that from time to time.

Have a good week.


3 Minute Breathing Space

Step 1 - 1 minute - AWARENESS

Get yourself comfortable.  Sit in an upright dignified posture.  If possible close your eyes.
Bring yourself into the present moment by asking yourself...

"What is my experience right now?  What are my thoughts?  What are my feelings?  What are my bodily sensations?

eg:  You may be worrying about work, feeling happy that you have finished for the weekend, that there is a knot in your shoulder or butterflies in your tummy etc.

Whatever your experience is, just acknowledge it and accept it without judgement or criticism. 

Step 2 - 1 minute - GATHERING

Moving now to your breathing, giving it your full attention.  Notice your breath as it enters and leaves your body.  Where do you feel it, chest/tummy/nostrils/throat.  Observe the rise and fall of your chest or tummy.  Notice the quality of the breath and how the in breath may differ from the out breath.  You're not trying to change your breathing or force it - you are merely observing your own natural rhythm of breathing and using this as a way to anchor you into the present moment.  Giving yourself a moment of awareness and stillness.

Step 3 - 1 minute - EXPANDING

Develop your awareness of your breathing further by expanding it so that when you breathe you include a sense of your body as a whole.  Imagine you are breathing right out to your edges - finger tips, soles of your feet, top of your head including your face.

This breathing space allows you to step out of automatic pilot and just connect with the here and now.  It can be very grounding and calming and is a useful exercise if you are feeling overwhelmed with difficult thoughts and feelings.  Or just because you want to pause. 

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There's more to eating than just shovelling it in!

I LOVE eating!  Who doesn't?  But more recently I've really got to thinking about how I sometimes don't even taste the food I eat.  There's so much more to it than just shovelling it in don't you think?!!!  For an activity I hold dear, I don't always give it the attention it deserves.  Two things have highlighted this to me recently;  The first was when, as a result of a virus, I haven't been able to smell a thing!  Consequently, everything I've consumed has been bland and devoid of taste!  Eating really does need to be a whole sensory experience!  I need to smell my food to thoroughly enjoy it; similarly, presentation is paramount!  Isn't it great to cast your eyes over a rainbow of fresh ingredients rather than a splodge of brown trying to pass itself off as a chilli con carne?  And who doesn't love that moment when you eat a chocolate eclair to have the cream squish out of the sides so you end up licking it off your fingertips......eclairs... let's face it, you never eat THEM in company?  Anyway, what I'm saying is, do we pay enough attention to our meal times and the food we eat?  I eat the same cardboard toast every morning because it's quick and can be digested (I use this term loosely!!) somewhere between me tripping over a yarling cat and looking for my car keys.  What does it taste of.......precisely nothing!

Which brings me onto my second example.  Despite my milky pallor and snotty nose, my lovely hub had booked us a night away.  The first one in years that wasn't work related so I was understandably over-joyed.  We ended up at a wonderful hotel in Helmsley, North Yorkshire - fabulous rooms, gastronomic fayre and spa including outdoor hot-tub - what more could a girl ask for?  Anyway, it turns out that we were booked in for a "Food lovers" weekend - woooo hooooo!  We started off with afternoon tea.  Teeny scones resplendent on tiered cake stand, clotted cream and jam all washed down with loose leaf tea!  As we snuggled in beside the cosy fire, we both eyed the scones and thought....hmmm they look a tad small.  However, they were fresh from the oven, perfectly cooked and after two each we both felt happy and satisfied.  Eyes bigger than belly?  I think so!

This was tested later as we came down for dinner - would we choose the 3 course a la carte or the 5 course "tasting" menu?  Now we always play safe, choosing our favourite meals over and over so, in the spirit of adventure we chose the former. Our first course arrived!  Celeriac soup with cauliflower pickle.  It came in the tiniest of bowls - gosh this really is just ...a taster!  Gulp!  Now it was at this point that hub said "I think we might have to order the optional cheeseboard because, if these portions are anything to go by, we are gonna be starving"!  However, buoyed by the appearance of 4 freshly baked bread rolls we.....well I was going to say "ploughed on" but that implies the soups were bigger than they were!!  Let's say...we delved in!!  As the portions were so tiny it made me eat slowly, taking small spoonfuls and savouring every mouthful.  It was exquisite!  It seriously was!  So I slowed down even further, not wanting this wonderful taste sensation to end!  As I finished the soup it was all I could do to stop myself scraping the soup spoon across the dish in a vain attempt to find one more mouthful.  Heaven!   The rest of the meal followed in a similar vein - dish after dish of teeny tiny portions of superb food, all presented like works of art, the attention to detail quite breathtaking.  It made me think of the Chef who must have been mindful as he cooked the food - really in the moment bringing together an array of wonderful ingredients just at the right time.  Then, presenting it with such care and flourish - which all added to our experience of eating it and we appreciated it so much more.

And so, a wonderful gastronomic experience was had by all.  Surprisingly, despite small portions, by the end of our 5 courses we had no need for the cheeseboard - we were completely full to the brim.  Now is that because our palates were satisfied rather than tummies?  Or because we ate much more slowly and savoured every mouthful?  Who knows!  But it was a real learning experience that  has made me rethink my attitude to food and consequently, I will try and savour things a little more and be mindful when I eat.

Most humorous point in the evening came when the slightly quirky wine waiter came over and asked for our choice.  Not being big drinkers and also if I'm honest, mindful of the cost, I chose a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  It was duly brought to the table by said waiter, wry smile on lips who asked me if it was the correct bottle and would madam like to taste it!  I really felt like I wanted to giggle (a) from nerves and (b) because our half bottle was so little it looked just like a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar!!!  Oh the shame!  I don't know why I worried though - everyone else in the room bought their wine by the glass!!! Riff raff!

Happy eating!


ps  Just in case you fancy a gastronomic experience

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Always take the weather with you

I was driving back from an appointment the other day and I felt really quite positive and happy!  Strange, I thought.  How can that be!    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a particularly negative person, but just recently, the dark mornings, cold, damp weather, rising prices, job uncertainty, bad news in the press...need I go on.... have all contributed to a general dip in mood.  I say dip but in all honesty, at times, I've hidden under the duvet not wanting to face the day.    This is obviously a totally disproportionate response to my life (which is fine) but felt very real nonetheless.  It's hard not to get caught up in the doom and gloom we are constantly fed via the many forms of media which now inhabit our lives.   So, what changed my mood?  I was driving along, Adele's new CD playing, both of us belting out "Rolling in the Deep" - (I do a great harmony), when I realised that the SUN WAS SHINING!  Doesn't it cast such a better glow on life?  I could have climbed atop a windy hill, whilst wafting my dirndl skirt, I felt that joyous!

This all tied in really nicely with a meditation I was preparing for a weekend workshop.  I had chosen to do a "Mountain Meditation", which is a nice grounding meditation.  In a nutshell, you visualise a mountain;  it might be a huge dominating one, or soft and undulating.  It may be within a moutain range, on it's own or hidden behind another.  You consider the size, shape and colour of your mountain;  is is dark and grey with it's summit hidden in the clouds?  Or is it green and pleasant, dotted with flowers.  One of my favourite bits is when you ask participants what the weather is like on their mountain?  As you sit there pondering this during your guided meditation it's amazing what it can reveal.  When I was doing mine recently, I found that my weather was very blustery!  To me, this represented the fact that my mind was full of ideas, thoughts and feelings that kept buffeting me about. I couldn't focus because I was being pulled this way and that!   I'd not even realised that's how I felt but this meditation helped me take a step back and realise just what was going on!    So you could say that the weather is a great metaphor for mood and you can be your own barometer - all you have to do is go up your mountain and pay attention to the weather. 

In the words of Crowded House......"Always take the weather with you".

Have a good week.

Mindful Missyxx

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Work in Progress

As much as I really like mindfulness and all it stands for sometimes it can be really hard to practice what you preach!  Take last night for instance....

I spent 3 hours in the company of my lovely mindfulness colleagues under the guise of supervision.  We meet regularly to discuss mindfulness, it's problems, personal practice issues, working with mindfulness, that kind of thing plus, we eat lots of cake and nibbles and take the time to find the fun in life (that's my favourite bit!!).

So, our facilitator for the evening compiled our agenda then chose to work backwards...well that threw me off kilter straight away......woah!  Backwards.....but that's not straightforward ( I can be a bit obvious sometimes).  Anyway, I remained in the moment, went with the flow and the meeting turned out really well.  We discussed the retreat - fabulous!; our up and coming Saturday workshop - themed "The Senses" - We like a theme and for some reason they always begin with "S".  Soon we are really going to have to be creative with that one!  We also discussed how we integrate mindfulness into our work (not easy for me) and also about me hitting my metaphorical meditation "wall" at 16 minutes 57 seconds.  To explain, I've recently downloaded an app (so IT savvy) called "Zen Timer".  You can set it for a certain length of time and then it chimes bells when you are done (what's wrong with that!!!???).  Anyway, for some strange reason, each time I put it on, I think it's gone faulty.  Surely it must be 20 mins by now....I resist looking on several occasions but then when I do says 16 minutes 57 and has done so on several occasions!  Spooky or what.  So, we discussed this and the wiser and more experienced of our group put forth the idea that meditation comes in waves and sometimes it is necessary to ride these out to progress.   As I'm only practising for a relatively short length of time, I'm only really getting one wave!  So, I'm going to extend my time next week (via the Zen timer!!) and see if I can do some serious surfing!

The evening ended with a great meditation just simply focussing on the breath, hands on tummy, feeling the rise and fall.  It's really comforting feeling the warmth of your hands resting on you as you meditate and an easy place to focus on.  I left feeling really chilled........and then I lost my keys (arhghghgh where are they!???  Someone might find them and burgle the house!!!!).  Suddenly the "moment" was lost and I was hijacked by my thoughts, catastrophising over what might happen!!! 

I guess you could say I'm definitely "Work in Progress".

update:  Used Zen timer tonight and hit the wall at 15.05!  So much for my theory then!

Have a good week.

Mindful Missy

Sunday, 6 February 2011

There's some things you just can't plan for!

Well I've had such a great week since coming back from the retreat!

I don't quite know what's happened but I definitely feel more peaceful and contented.  Last week I was so restless.  I didn't know what to do with myself and even small decisions proved a nightmare - what bread shall we have?....I don't know....there's so much choice....seeded, non-seeded, brown, wholemeal, rye, granary, ciabata, help!  Whatever happened to just white! 

Sorry about that!   Kind of lost myself in the past for a moment.  Where was I?  Oh yes, I felt settled and clearer about life and also excited about the future.  It would be nice to do something different and even just writing this blog is away from the norm for me.  I don't really do social and here I am talking to everyone.  Well ok not everyone.....maybe just the five of you but it's a start!!!

Which brings me to my dinner party on Friday night - now even calling it that sets me up for a fall doesn't it?  Perhaps I have delusions of grandeur!  I mean I'm not quite Hyacinth Bouquet.  If I was it would of course have been a "candlelit supper" but still, my friend made me laugh when she said "Dinner party, aren't you posh - we just have friends round for tea".  This got me thinking that perhaps I do put pressure on myself and this stops me doing things.  Having friends over is far nicer than having a dinner party!  So it was within this frame of reference that I planned "the meal".  I texted my friends and said "think rustic rather than posh nosh".  Rustic means you can of course shove it all on the table, in mis-matched tableware and tell people to help themselves.  Marvellous!  Once I was in this mindset I was so able to enjoy my cooking and overall preparations.  Normally, I'd be, It's never gonna be right, I hate all, tidying, cooking but I was really in the moment, without a hint of resistance and everything just fell into place.

So, with starter prepared, casserole in oven (rustic) and pudding not even made (I was going to do that during the meal, how chilled am I!!!), I had time to throw on a silky top, paint my lips red (so on trend) and revel in my inner calm.....

There was a knock on the door, the guests had arrived..... just as my table decoration caught fire!

Now there really are some things you just can plan for!

Have a good week.

Mindful Missyxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Well....I survived!  A weekend which involved long periods of complete silence!  Saturday morning  - 5 hours!  5 hours without uttering a word including a silent breakfast!  Have you ever tried to eat toast in silence?  In the end I had to suck it to avoid noise overload!  The indigestion afterwards!!!!! ! 

Still, it was a really interesting experiment.  You think you need words to get you through the day and to be honest you don't really.  A raised eyebrow can convey so much and the hand gestures for "would you mind awfully passing the butter" just speak for themselves.  So, I sat in silence, with my discomfort, various thoughts going through my head.  Should I get up and make toast or is there a cooked breakfast?   No-one to ask you see!  Perhaps I'll wait I thought, tapping my fingers nonchalantly, looking around to see if anyone else was moving.  Yep, someone's up at the toaster, so off I go, hand gesturing all the way, "no you have that piece, I insist!!  And then later, as I munched away, someone called order.  Well at least I thought that's what it was, until I noticed it was just someone cracking their boiled egg on the table.  You could definitely make a sitcom out of this!   

I guess what I'm trying to convey is that, yes, it was difficult at times.  Sometimes my own thoughts and insecurities roared inside my head and I had to slap them down to control them.  Occasionally, during the sitting meditations, I felt like I had Tourettes, compelled to twitch my aching limbs, shout a rude word to break the silence or just get up and leave but I did none of this and just sat with it.   Eventually, the discomfort passed and I realised that I had meditated for 3 hours (with breaks for a cup of tea of course) and I had done so admirably.  More importantly, I actually enjoyed watching my mind as it danced about, waving mad thoughts, worries and random ramblings at me as if to say..."see what you make of this??!!".  I also enjoyed the company of some great people who brought so much humour to the weekend.  Bet you never thought a silent retreat could be fun?  How wrong you are!

Would I do it again......definitely yes.  I spent the early morning lay in my bed watching the sun rise above a crescent moon, plane trails drifting across the sky.  I took time out to just sit and look at the landscape in front of me and it really was beautiful.   It was such a peaceful start to the day and that feeling of contentment stayed with me throughout the whole of weekend. I paid attention to the start of the day in all it's glory and I never said a word!

Now that doesn't happen everyday.......

Time to beat a hasty retreat!


Mindfulmissy xx